The Influence of Fairness on University Student Satisfaction

By Peter Simmons, David Dowell and Felicity Small.

Published by The International Journal of Assessment and Evaluation

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Some researchers have argued that a better understanding of fairness would add to our evaluation of learning environments (Lizzio, Wilson & Hadaway, 2007) and their impact on students (Nesbit & Burton, 2006), but there have been few studies that explicitly examine perception of fairness as a driver of satisfaction with learning environments. This study examined the influence of perceptions of fairness on student satisfaction with a subject, the competence of lecturers, and the university.
Students (n=396) from education, arts, management, health and science faculties in one Australian university completed a survey that measured perceptions of fairness and service quality. Exploratory factor analysis was used to identify distinct factor concepts. Regression was used to explore the influence of five service quality factors (Reliable, Assurances, Responsiveness, Tangibility, Empathy), adapted from SERVQUAL (Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry, 1988), and two fairness factors (Respectful Partnership, Systemic fairness), adapted from FLEQ (Lizzio et al., 2007), on student feelings of satisfaction with the subject, lecturers, and the university as a whole. The two fairness factors were found to be distinct from the service quality factors. ‘Respectful partnership’ significantly and positively influenced all the satisfaction levels and was the strongest influence on subject satisfaction.
This finding is important because it shows that an understanding of fairness offers a more complete understanding of the student experience. Some aspects of the learning environment that are evidently highly valued by students, such as voice in decisions about learning and the quality of the relationship with the lecturer, may not presently be captured by instruments used to evaluate learning environments. The paper suggests that fairness dimensions be further explored, and integrated in design and evaluation of the student experience.

Keywords: Student Satisfaction, University, Subject, Course, Lecturer, Teacher, Fairness, Justice, Interactional, Procedural, Partnership, Respectful, Servqual, Systemic, Regression

International Journal of Assessment and Evaluation, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp.1-16. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 330.030KB).

Assoc. Prof. Peter Simmons

Associate Head of School, School of Communication and Creative Industries, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW, Australia

Associate Professor Peter Simmons has lectured in organisational communication for more than 10 years in Australia, Singapore and the UK. Previously he worked in the media and health industries. His research in recent years has focused on communication evaluation and ethical communication habits, as well as the integration of studies of communication, justice and culture. In particular, he has examined the way different communication styles influence perceptions of fairness and unfairness when authorities communicate decisions. His ongoing research explores the role of procedural and interactional fairness across a range of professions and contexts including sports officiating, management and university teaching.

Dr. David Dowell

Lecturer, School of Management and Business, Aberystwyth University, Wales, UK

David is a member of the Institute for Land Water and Society Economics Regional Development Group. David’s research interests and publications are in business-to-business marketing, satisfaction and complaint management, non-profit marketing, environmental marketing, organizational psychology and marketing education.

Dr. Felicity Small

Lecturer, School of Management and Marketing, Charles Sturt University, NSW, Australia

Felicity is a lecturer in the School of Management and Marketing at Charles Sturt University. She is a member for the Institute of Land, Water and Society. Her research interests are in environmental marketing and consumer imagination. She has published in the areas of consumer research and in higher education.